Through the Eyes of an Educator: Portland and Beyond

by Stacey Ebert / Sep 06, 2016 /
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Road trips, adventure, travel, and education – these are some of the best bits of life all rolled into one! When you get the opportunity to experience them, take it! It’s been a few years now since I’ve been in the traditional classroom, but each day I find I do my best to take part in a global one. So much of culture and geography is left out of traditional education, as teachers don’t have all the time in the world to fuse it all into one hundred and eighty two days of forty-minute lessons. When you get right down to it, you wind up with maybe one-hundred and twenty-five of those, once you remove assemblies, test days, review days, world events, pullouts, and things you can’t control. Teachers have to make choices, follow a curriculum, and leave things out. Travel brings them all back in!

At Crater Lake National Park. From Through the Eyes of an Educator: Portland and beyond

On our recent month long cross-country journey, we made a stop in Portland, Oregon. Having long been on our list of west coast cities to visit (especially since moving to San Diego), Portland not only held a visit with my college roommate, but led to adventures all its own. Known for local, boutique, and authentic, this city has a particular vibe of outdoor life, Pacific Northwest style. From cold brew coffee to craft beer everywhere, from pet friendly spaces to a love of the donuts and the outdoors, from giant festivals to intimate cafes and a mega bookstore in which you could be lost and found for days, Portland runs on its own culture.

You can wait in line for creative crafty donuts, set your taste buds ablaze with eclectic local cuisine, check out the different neighborhoods all with their own sense of self and style, or wander the waterfront to see life from a different setting. A special place in Portland is Powell’s City of Books. A top attraction in the city, this immense independent bookstore has been a mainstay of the city for over forty years. With colour-coded sections, stairways, and lifts aplenty, this is book lovers’ heaven! Readers, authors, writers, and more could stay here for hours in awe of all of the stories present. Budding dreamers, writers, visionaries, designers, and creators of all kinds can find something to tickle their fancy in the millions of available titles. Life unfolds between the pages and amidst the stacks in this book mecca in Portland.

As many Oregonians and visitors plug the outdoor lifestyle, we wanted to do just that during our visit. Although you could stay in the surrounds of this city - and even more so, the state of Oregon for weeks on end and still not experience everything, we thought we’d give some other sites a try. As a traveler and an educator, I love to explore. Whether it’s winding the pathways of Portland’s Twenty-third Street or traversing the beaches of the Oregon coast, exploration drives wonder and curiosity while providing hands on opportunity for growth, development, and perspective changing events. 

My first visit to a cheese factory had all that and more. The Tillamook Cheese Factory sits a short drive away from Portland. After checking out the countryside and getting a sneak peak at bits of the Pacific on the Oregon coast, we arrived. This is a museum, factory, shop, eatery, and fun journey all rolled into one. This self-guided museum of sorts provides something for guests of all ages. For those interested in reading and learning more, you’ll find a video as well as detailed photos and descriptions of life at the factory and farm. On display are materials and equipment of past and present used within and around the factory. This family-friendly environment chooses to follow along with their traditions by providing all who work there with a piece of the action. Upstairs, where the ice cream bar is, provides a window to a world unlike anything I’d ever seen (aside from the I Love Lucy® chocolate factory episode). Giant windows offer great viewing into the cheese factory. The hypnotic methodical nature of this factory quickly drew me in. Cheese block after cheese block flowed through the machines as the ends were removed, the blocks packaged, sealed, and moved on to be boxed. In another section, you could see the machines used to separate the curds, another to package the large blocks, and yet another to change the size of the cheese packages from giant to picnic-friendly. When you finish your visit, you end in the quite appropriate cheese section. Grab a toothpick and try some cheeses, head to the refrigerated section and purchase some to go, or move to the shop and pick up wines, crackers, and jams to go along with your cheese delights. Or, of course, grab a warm and gooey grilled cheese sandwich made for you right before of your eyes. 

At the Tillamook cheese factory. From Through the Eyes of an Educator: Portland and beyond

Hikers unite in Oregon. From city parks to large-scale coastlines and gorges in between, outdoor adventure is alive here. A Columbia River Gorge day for us consisted of a great drive through winding tree-lined roads and a stop at Multnomah Falls. A very popular site to visit, this extra tall waterfall provides spray for all visitors to see, taste, and feel. Wander a short step from the parking lot or take the hike up to the uppermost end – either way, you’re in the presence of Mother Nature. The farther you stray from the waterfall path, the quieter the trails become. Drive a short distance away and hike into the gorge or grab your treats and choose a spot to stop for a snack and you’re bound to find a place of peaceful serenity to suit your needs. Outdoor enthusiasts, hikers, environmentalists, walkers, dreamers, and those who find mindfulness in natural activity and beauty converge here. 

Multnomah Falls. From Through the Eyes of an Educator: Portland and beyond
Multnomah Falls. From Through the Eyes of an Educator: Portland and beyond

One last night in Oregon took us to Crater Lake National Park. In the middle of June, we were still met with freezing temperatures, frozen water, and although the roads were cleared, incredible amounts of snow on the sides of the paths. After winding up and up and up, we were met with a crater-filled lake complete with pure sapphire blue water, a stunning island, and unsurpassed panoramic views. At any time of year, this striking feature dazzles viewers and keeps countless returning year after year. The National Parks visitor center shares a space to warm up, fill up on treats, and of course, purchase any souvenirs you might want as keepsakes of your visit. As in any national park, the experience is priceless and the visit feels like a first of many. 

Crater Lake National Park. From Through the Eyes of an Educator: Portland and beyond

 

Education comes in many forms. At times it can seem stuffy and forced, while at others it feels fluid, natural, and welcoming. Travel provides many moments where adventure blends with learning and no one is the wiser. Experiences take shape, information flows, education merges with the activity at hand, and the fun is the takeaway. One of the best compliments a former student paid me was that she had no idea how she knew all this stuff she didn’t know before entering my class, as she never felt like she was learning in my room but instead, having fun and doing activities. Considering her grades progressed, confidence returned, insight improved, participation soared, test scores increased, and her attitude only got better, there must have been something right going on in that classroom. For me, as a traveler and an educator, that blend is the goal. The global classroom is alive and well when the adventure provides the education and the world’s people become teachers. Portland and its surrounds have much to offer those who wish to venture to the Pacific Northwest. Be an explorer – find your journey and learn along the way. Happy travels.

 

Stacey Ebert, our Educational Travels Editor, is a traveler at heart who met her Australian-born husband while on a trip in New Zealand. Stacey was an extracurricular advisor and taught history in a Long Island public high school for over fifteen years, enjoying both the formal and informal educational practices. After a one year 'round the world honeymoon, travel and its many gifts changed her perspective. She has since left the educational world to focus on writing and travel. She is energetic and enthusiastic about long term travel, finding what makes you happy and making the leap. In her spare time she is an event planner, yogi, dark chocolate lover, and spends as much time as possible with her toes in the sand. Check out her website at thegiftoftravel.wordpress.com for more of her travel musings.
 
All photos courtesy and copyright Stacey Ebert